I’ve heard many photographers share their dislike of the formal family photo time. It’s a non-creative time, a herding of cats, a journey in trying to work out where Aunty Carol is, oh she went to the toilet.. that’s fine, we’ll all just wait.
Then there’s the awkward shouting from the ladder to the guy in the blue shirt to move 2 inches to the left so I can see more than half is face…
But mostly the part that gets to me personally is how pained the bride & groom look. I can guarantee some eye-rolling and frown lines appearing and a general sore jaw feeling from all this fake smiling.
So some photographers understandably try to convince their couples to avoid it or do a minimal amount.
I was starting to ponder the same thing and then I went to a Film Is Not Dead workshop with a rather rad guy from Hawaii – Jonathan Calas. He talked about how the family photos are one of the most important photos from a wedding. And so my ears pricked up!
Could he give me a reason to LOVE family photos?
He described them as heirlooms. And imagined myself as a child looking at my parents album and staring at those family group photos. Looking into the faces, those long lost relatives, trying to understand how connected to them I am, visually & spiritually. Like clues might be there in those black and white grains…
And when he compared that to a photo of a mason jar with some hessian around it I had to laugh. Like how is that photo actually meaningful to anyone in 10-50 years time? (Unless it’s the mason jar that nan used for preserves & the hessian from her old potato bag). C’mon….
And so yes, now I can see that these family photos are a rare opportunity to have everyone captured together, at a point in time. It’s like a picture representation of the family tree, as it looks now.
But a crummy family photo is still a crummy photo so the next part in the journey of loving family photos is to do them even BETTER.
And that means finding a genuine reason to smile, to connect people in the group physically, to understand who is who and how they should best fit together.
Sure it may not be the most creative part of the day but it’s potentially the most challenging! I challenge myself to make these photos really great.
I’ve also noticed that of all the 800 photos from the day that most people want a print of their family photo. It’s the photo mum and dad want too. So if that isn’t a sign of how important they are, I don’t know what else is!
I’d love to know your thoughts of what these shots mean to you now and what they might mean to you later and how we can make the experience of taking them a lot more fun for everyone ;-)